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The Unblinking Eye
AUSA, Washington DC, October 2009: Persistent surveillance is a major field of improvement for the U.S. Army. Current assets such as aerial and vehicle mounted stabilized Electro-Optical (EO) sensors are providing good performance, but their availability, mobility and mission endurance are usually set to hours, not days, limited by platform, power and operator limitations. Being able to cover a wide area with each sensor operating days and weeks could mean fewer gaps in coverage and lower exposure of units on roads.
Such ‘unblinking eyes’ means that everyday events such as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) goes off, a suspect stopped for questioning at a checkpoint or an interception of a suspicious phone call – each can be investigated by ‘tracking back’ the event, seeping through historical images databases, telecommunications and transportation records or financial transactions, in search for clues. Through such forensic investigation of databases storing events with time and geo-referenced information, intelligence agents can look for related events that unveil hidden information about specific activities or behavior anomaly. Such details could uncover concealed logistical infrastructure or reveal operational networks supporting insurgent activities.
The scale of these ’forensic investigations’ is limited only by the access to information and the authority of the operating agency. Persistent surveillance for brigade and below is one of the fields o improvement planned for future Brigade Combat Team (BCT) enhancement. Current systems offering persistent surveillance are operated at division and above, and are used primarily in combating and preempting IED emplacements. Systems such as Persistent Surveillance and Dissemination System (PSDS), Constant Hawk and operations by Task Force Observe-Detect-Identify-Neutralize (TF ODIN) are offering early implementation of these capabilities. Among future systems that could be considered are specialized ground based sensor arrays, including a range of unattended imaging sensors designed to trigger each other when a target appears. For example, ground surveillance radars, triggering EO means or seismic and acoustic gunshot detectors pointing a videocam or weapon station to counter the threat.Another system being developed collaboratively by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon is the Mast Surveillance Sensor (MSS), employing a mast mounted version of the medium-wave multisensor (EO) system developed for the Manned Ground Vehicle (MGV). The system is applied with an advanced mission management and control system enabling wide area surveillance, tracking of targets of interest and investigation, using the high power zooms. The system also employs other on-board sensors fused into a panoramic view of the covered area.